Families of the slain SAF 44 most especially the Cordilleran families dedicated the first year commemoration of the Mamasapano incident to the people who supported, condoled and assisted in their needs both financially and morally.
This is the message of the organizers lead by Julie Cayang-o, wife of PO1 Gringo Cayang-o. Although dismayed on what came out in the news where the call for justice overshadowed the real purpose of their event, she wishes to extend the real reason of the commemoration to the people who gave their support.
Dennis Suyayen, a relative of SPO1 Noel Golocan, said Cordillera SAF family members are dismayed that the overall message they want to impart was not the one highlighted in the news.
“We can’t disregard our desire for justice for our loved ones but this is not the main reason the families are commemorating,” said Suyayen. “We can only wish that they have focused on the speeches of the SAF families during the main program,” he said.
“Some of the families expressed their desire for justice but that is not the main objective of the commemoration,” he said.
“We therefore wish to once again express our gratitude to the ones who assisted us financially and morally, condoled with us and showed their support for to all of the bereaved families of the brave SAF 44 during our one year of grief,” he said.
“We also wish to express our heartfelt thanks to the Cordillera Heritage Foundation, for giving us a space where we can have a centralized place to commemorate our loved ones in the City of Baguio,” he said. The foundation has dedicated a portion of a place in Badiwan for the Cordilleran SAF heroes where the group planted trees as tribute to their loved ones.
Cayang-o said the tree planting dubbed as tree-bute gave them an avenue to meet with the rest of the Cordilleran families since their husbands were buried in different places. “The tree-bute site gave us opportunity to condole with each other and for this reason our unity was noticed by the other families,” she said.
Cayang-o said the other families were intrigued with the unity of the Cordilleran families that started with the tree-bute.
“When we told them the Cordilleran families are planning to do the commemoration together at an earlier date, they wanted to join,” she said.
The two-day event was attended by 37 families of the 44 SAF members. A candle lighting ceremony was conducted on Friday, January 15, at the Burnham Lake. On Saturday, they have a prayer walk from Session Road to the Ibaloy Park that was followed by a short program and boodle fight at the Ibaloy.
The final part of the program was a tree planting at the tree-bute site where the families planted a tree for the whole SAF 44. The non-Cordilleran SAF families made a request to be part of the tree-bute site.
Merlyn Gamutan, the widow of PSI Joey Gamutan from Basilan, said they were surprised of the way people treated the Cordilleran family members that they accorded such heroic tribute to them. “It’s only here that we see how people treat the SAF 44 as heroes,” she said.
“We hope the administrator of this site will grant us, the rest of the SAF 44, to be part of this tree-bute site that our beloved husbands, fathers, sons will be accorded the same love and respect,” she pleaded in tear.
Gamutan expressed that there’s a donation they wish to contribute to the foundation so that they can be included in the tree-bute site.
The foundation granted the request of the SAF 44 and the council members are currently making plans to expand the tree-bute site.
The organizers also wish to thank those who sponsored the activities and accommodations of the members: General Getulio Napeñas, Bongbong Marcos, Senator Alan Cayetano, Governor Tingting Cojuanco, Cordillera Heritage Foundation, Inc., and the Onjon ni Ibadoy that provided free use of the Ibaloy Park. Also supported by Criminology students from University of the Cordilleras, University of Baguio and Cordillera Career Development College. Also supported by the PNP Baguio, Pro-COR band and the Hapiyomi Cultural Dance Troupe.
Guests during the event were Bongbong Marcos (represented), Senator Alan Cayetano (represented), SAF Director Moro Lazo (represented), Tingting Cojuanco, General Getulio Napeñas, Congressman Nicasio M. Aliping, Jr. and Judge Del Claraval. Mayor Domogan also dropped by to give inspirational message./Carl C. Taawan